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“This Book is Soo Good,” Students Reflect on Language Theme

Students chat among themselves while enjoying the end of language theme celebration.

It’s celebration time! On Wednesday, January 31, African Community Learning Program’s students served pizza, snacks, and drinks and soon chewed and reflected on their month-long learning under the language theme.

Throughout the month, students read my article “First Steps Toward a Giant Leap,” My Name is Sangoel by Williams and Mohammed, and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah pp 54-56. We engaged in daily readings, discussions, and presentations centered on language. Our students led many class discussions talking about their personal experiences related to language and teaching their peers words in Pulaar, Wolof, Mandingo, Mòoré, Yorùbá, Zamara, Arabic, and French.

African Community Learning Program’s volunteer, Hannah Peifer, presented on Swahili and secretary Hazim Hardeman on the importance on language, focusing on storytelling.

Raheemah, Mageed, and Helima (from left to right) presenting on Noah's Born a Crime.

Our end of the language theme celebration aimed at emphasizing to students the importance of their work and serve as a time of reflection. Mageed, Helima, and Raheemah closed out our January month highlighting a section that stood out to them in Noah’s Born a Crime excerpt and explaining the reasons to the class. Mageed connected to how Naoh learned languages “phrase by phrase.” Helima liked Noah’s description of his mixed race family as “different types of chocolates.

Raheema enjoyed both the wording and the content of the following passage: “I became a chameleon. My color didn’t change, but I could change your perception of my color. If you spoke to me in Zulu, I replied to you in Zulu. If you spoke to me Tswana, I replied to you in Tswana. Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.”

Students had some time to reflect on all three readings, wrote, and talked about the one that moved them most.

“I like the book Sangoel because I like that fact that people didn’t say his name right, and then he tried to correct them, and they were making fun of him,” Aibatou explained fast and in great detail. “And then he went home, and he told his mom that people were making fun of him, and he wanted to go back to their country.” Aibatou continued as if reciting a memorized script.

“His mother told him that they should stay here, and everything is going to be fine. Then he slept on the floor instead of the bed. The next day he went and grabbed his markers and tee-shirt and drew a sun and a goal. He went to school, and people were impressed. I like the fact that he drew his name. And then everyone understood how to say his name, and he was happy. The teacher was so proud of him! And then everyone did the same and drew their names. That’s why I like that book so much!, “Aibatou concluded.

Ibra and Tamara echoed Aibatou’s feelings on the book My Name is Sangoel.

“This book is soo good!,” Ibra exclaimed. “I like Sangoel because he is kind and smart. He made up an idea and drew a sun and goal, so people could say his name. Sometimes, people mess up my name too.”

“I like Sangoel because when people say his name wrong he gonna correct them” Tamara insisted. “It’s the best book I ever read in my life.”

Aminata Sy reads My Name is Sangoel to students.

Raheemah, Adama, Diorele, Ezzeldin, Mageed, Aibatou, and Helima also highlighted my article “First Steps Toward a Giant Leap: Part 1” as a reading they would recommend.

The “First Steps Toward a Giant Leap: Part 1” moved me most because it’s inspiring, because Nene Aminata tells her life story, and because it’s nonfiction” Raheemah mentioned. “I like nonfiction.”

Aminata Sy is the founder and president of African Community Learning Program, a journalist, and a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies international relations and English.

To support African Community Learning Program visit and

or email Aminata Sy at

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